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Uplift won't solve road safety crisis ministers are warned

A lack of resources is preventing traffic enforcement work, frontline officers have warned.

The continuing number of roads deaths is “a sad and inevitable consequence” of cuts to force budgets, Federeation leads have said.

They have backed a Chief Constable and an HM Inspector who have joined safety campaigners and bereaved families to highlight the accident rate on Britain’s roads.

They were part of the BBC Panorama programme which revealed a 15% cut on traffic officers and obsolete speed cameras.

The Department for Transport is running a study to understand why the number of road deaths has stopped falling after reducing year-on-year for decades.

HM Inspector Matt Parr described the situation as “shocking”.

Northamptonshire’s Chief Constable Nick Adderley, who is also a former traffic officer, said road safety had been sidelined by other issues: “We have got to give it the same priority.”

Drink driving, obsolete speed cameras and crumbling roads were all highlighted as factors contributing to the increase in deaths after years of declining numbers.

The Police Federation’s Roads Policing Lead and National Board member Gemma Fox said over-stretched officers were doing as much as they could in difficult circumstances.

She supported her claim with the 2020 report by HMI on roads policing which revealed a 34 per cent real terms reduction in expenditure worth approximately £120m between 2013 and 2019.

"Every single roads policing officer I know personally wants to complete more pro-active activities. While reacting to accidents and enforcement are essential aspects of the job, this lack of resources has meant the public information side of the role has not been prioritised and this has been really damaging,” she said.

Avon and Somerset Police Federation Chair Mark Loker said the continuing high number of deaths was inevitable due to the cut in funding – and officers.

The government’s response to the programme’s claims was that each force was responsible for deployment and they were being supported.

Mr Loker said experience had been lost and the new recruits won’t come through fast enough to solve the current crisis: “As grateful as we are for more officers, what we do not see is sufficient thought about the infrastructure that also disappeared as part of those cutbacks – including the investment in training, equipment and specialisms.

“In three years, 30% of our colleagues will have less than five years’ service. And it now takes three years for any new officers to be out of their probationary period after being educated to a degree standard before they can police without abstractions to a University,” he said.

“Police forces across the country are stretched to beyond capacity, beyond safe limits by public demand.”

Both Mr Loker and CC Adderley said the lack of traffic officers meant other offending was not being prevented as stopped vehicles are increasingly linked to other offences.

Citizen enforcement, through dashcams, was highlighted in the programme as as one innovation.

But Mr Loker warned: “While a dashcam can help police by identifying an offence giving us evidence to send out a summons, 60% of people who commit a road-traffic offence are involved in other criminality. Dashcams are of little use in those circumstances.”

The Home Office said the Uplift recruitment programme was having an impact and the National Police Chiefs’ Council said roads policing “remains a priority”.

For the Fed, Gemma Fox said: "Admittedly, many forces have made major improvements in staffing and resources since the 2020 report findings. Although this will have a positive impact on the future of roads policing, we also must see further investment as there is so much more which can be done to improve safety for colleagues and members of the public.”

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